Even better: Right now for Amazon Prime Day 2021, we’re seeing a box of our favorite teeth-whitening kit for nearly half off – just $28, which is $22 off its standard price of $50. This was one of our favorite deals we vetted during last year’s Prime Day event and this time around, the deal is very similar; however, Amazon seems to be the only retailer who’s running the deal this year.
Amazon Prime members can take advantage of the discount through the end of Prime Day (June 22), as can anyone who signs up for a new membership or renews a subscription.
3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips Kit (medium)
Crest’s popular Whitestrips are a frequent Prime Day highlight, with more than 100,000 of the product selling during the annual event in each of the last two years – and seeing as how attractive the deal is this year, it’ll be quite sought-after yet again.
The kit comes with 22 treatments and is highly intuitive to use. You need to just peel the strips – one for the top teeth and one for the bottom – from the backing, and then stretch and apply them to your teeth. After 30 minutes, you simply remove the strips, and that’s one session.
We found that results tend to show up in as little as three days and after completing a full 20-day treatment, the results are meant to last for 12 months or more. If you want a quicker, in-the-moment solution, the kit also comes with two treatments of 1-Hour Express strips that remove stains in as little as one hour.
The best Amazon Prime Day Crest Whitestrips deals right now
Be sure to check out our guide to the best teeth-whitening kits to see why we named Crest’s Whitestrips as our top overall teeth-whitening kit, and why it’s not only recommended by dentists but also great for anyone with sensitive teeth or gums.
Prime 30-Day Free Trial (medium)
What deals were there on Crest’s Whitestrips last year?
Last year, Amazon discounted Crest’s Whitestrips to just under $28, which accounted for a total savings of $22 off the normal price (or 44%). This was the best deal we’d seen on the kits throughout last year and made the easiest and most effective teeth-whitening product a no-brainer to recommend.
Not only was it popular among our readers, but it was one of the most sought-after deals across all of Prime Day.
Why should I buy Crest Whitestrips?
The reasons why one should buy Crest Whitestrips are many. Not only are they an effective and easy-to-use solution for whitening your teeth, but they’re also great for people with sensitive teeth, are widely available, and easy to procure.
During our tests, we found Crest’s Whitestrips to deliver results in as few as four or five uses, and appreciated how intuitive the entire kit was to use. If you’ve been thinking about trying out a teeth-whitening kit for yourself, it doesn’t get better than Crest Whitestrips.
Are Crest’s Whitestrips a reliable teeth-whitening solution?
Yes, we found Crest Whitestrips to be a reliable teeth-whitening solution across various tests of our own. Even after just four or five uses, we started noticing actual results – and there are still roughly 15 more treatments after that.
Crest claims that the full 20-treatment kit can remove “14 years of tooth stains” and while it’s impossible for us to accurately gauge whether that assertion is correct or not, we did notice clear, positive benefits of using Crest’s Whitestrips.
3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips Kit (medium)
Frequently asked questions
What is Amazon Prime Day?
Amazon Prime Day is an annual two-day sale held by Amazon, featuring literally thousands of discounts on everything from fitness trackers and apparel to camping equipment, kitchen appliances, and clothing (among so much more). Amazon offers exclusive sales and discounts on some of its own popular products, as well, including its Kindle e-reader and smart home equipment like the Amazon Echo.
When is Amazon Prime Day?
Prime Day 2021 starts at midnight on June 21 and runs through the end of June 22. However, some of the featured deals may only be available during either the first or second day of the event, so it’s smart to check back to Amazon’s Prime Day landing page often as new deals and discounts will be posted throughout the event.
Do I need to be a Prime member?
Yes, you do have to be an Amazon Prime member to enjoy any of the sales during Prime Day 2021. If you haven’t yet signed up for Prime, Amazon gives new users a free 30-day trial through its website.
What are the benefits of being a Prime member?
Aside from having access to the annual Prime Day sale, Amazon Prime members are also privy to a slew of benefits that make either the annual or monthly dues well worth the recurring expenditure. This includes free two-day shipping on eligible items (where available) and access to Amazon’s extensive library of movies and television shows via Prime Video.
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Fitbit is one of the most reputable names in fitness wearables and rightly so – the brand offers a huge variety of fitness and health trackers and smartwatches at different price points for different people’s needs.
Whether you’re a serious runner who wants to track their mileage or someone who just wants to improve their health and set a few fitness goals, you won’t have to look far to find a Fitbit catered to your active lifestyle.
Taking advantage of sales during Amazon Prime Day has historically been one of the best ways to join in on the Fitbit craze at a discount – and this year is no different. Amazon just announced that Prime Day 2021 will run on June 21-22 start at midnight PDT on June 21 and run through the end of June 22. All new or existing Amazon Prime members (new members get a free 30-day trial when they sign up) are able to take advantage of the deal.
Prime 30-Day Free Trial (small)
We don’t yet know all the deals, but during last year’s sale, Fitbit discounted its popular Versa 2 (and Versa 2 Special Edition) and Versa Lite smartwatches, as well as its smart scale, the Aria Air.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Early Prime Day 2021 Fitbit deals happening now
If you’re on the fence about buying either activity tracker, or even if you just want to give a Fitbit as a gift, Prime Day 2021 is the perfect time to take the leap – and it lets you save some money in the process. Check out our Fitbit buying guide for more information on the brand’s trackers and which might be the best fit for your lifestyle.
What Fitbit deals do we expect during Prime Day this year?
Prime Day 2021 deals have yet to be announced but last year, we saw serious discounts on some of the top Fitbit models. The Versa 2 was discounted by $50 and ran at $129 – and is our top budget Fitbit, perfect for those in the market for a health and fitness tracker or smartwatch without breaking the bank.
The Versa Lite was down from $180 to $125, and its smart scale, the Aria Air, was running at $35, roughly $15 below MSRP.
What Fitbit should I buy?
The Fitbit you buy is a matter of both personal preference and how you intend to use it. Fitbits are great for tracking health metrics like stress, sleep, and resting heart rate, but they’re also amazing for tracking workouts or training for a race or event. Since each model automatically tracks your sleep and activities, which to choose comes down to individual features.
We’ve tried nearly every Fitbit on the market and go into great detail about which is right for whom in our guide to the best Fitbits. But for the quick-hit highlights, here are our top picks:
If you’re looking to become healthier, we love the Fitbit Sense. This tracker has just about every bell and whistle you need from a Fitbit including 20 exercise modes, built-in GPS, water resistance, and in-depth exercise stats. It also has health-specific metrics like oxygen saturation and ECG readings to monitor your heart, electrodermal activity (EDA) readings to analyze your stress levels, and mindfulness programs to help you lower them.
If you just need a tracker to keep you active each day or to help you train for a race, the Charge 4 is budget-friendly, doesn’t take up too much room on your wrist, and has fitness features like built-in GPS, 50m of water resistance, 20 exercise modes, and a long battery life.
Then there’s the Versa 3, a full-featured smartwatch that’s able to fit seamlessly into your daily life and improve everything from your health and fitness to your productivity at work. It’s our favorite overall Fitbit, and features a bright colorface display, long battery life, built-in GPS, and music storage, as well as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant connectivity.
Prime Day 2021 FAQs
What is Amazon Prime Day?
Amazon Prime Day is like Black Friday but exclusively for the online mega-retailer. Amazon runs special promotions and discounts on some of the most coveted items including Kindles, smartphones, smart home gadgets, and more. This year, Prime Day 2021 will start at midnight PDT on June 21 and run through the end of June 22.
When is Amazo Prime Day?
Prime Day 2021 is set to run from midnight on June 21 through the end of June 22. Keep in mind that some deals may not be active or available for the full 48 hours of the sale, so check back to the Prime Day landing page often to see new discounts throughout the event.
Do I need to be a Prime Member?
Yes, you have to be an Amazon Prime member in order to access all Prime Day 2021 deals. If you’ve yet to sign up for the service, Amazon offers a free 30-day trial of Prime via its website. We recommend signing up for the free trial for the sale.
What are the benefits of being a Prime member?
In addition to having access to Amazon’s annual Prime Day sale, Prime members also enjoy a variety of benefits that make the recurring yearly or monthly dues worth the price of admission. These benefits include free two-day shipping on eligible items (where available) and access to the extensive library of movies and television shows on Amazon Prime Video.
Whitening toothpaste helps remove surface stains from teeth.
We spoke to 4 dentists on what to look for in a whitening toothpaste that won’t hurt your teeth or gums.
Our top choice, Colgate Total SF, is effective, ADA-approved, and budget-friendly.
Whether you’re a coffee addict, ex-smoker, or just want to polish your smile a little brighter, virtually everyone wants whiter teeth. There are all kinds of intensive options available, from whitening strips to in-office dental treatments. But for most of us, the easiest way is to switch up our toothpaste and ask it to do more than just fight plaque and cavities.
Whitening toothpaste generally works by using enamel-safe abrasives to physically remove surface stains. Many also contain other active ingredients, like peroxide, to dissolve stains and bleach teeth. Some even contain a chemical called blue covarine, which makes teeth appear whiter instantly by canceling out yellow tones – sort of an optical illusion.
But since not every ingredient is equal and some teeth whitening products notoriously cause tooth sensitivity, we spoke to four board-certified dentists to learn which whitening toothpaste really works. They shared the top brands they recommend to patients, as well as some tips for what to look for when shopping. We also personally tested several toothpastes to get a feel for texture, taste, and anything else a consumer might want to know.
Colgate Total SF Whitening Gel is a top pick among our dentists as it’s a budget-friendly and effective way to whiten and protect the overall health of your teeth.
Pros: Inexpensive, American Dental Association (ADA) approved, provides sensitivity relief
Cons: Taste is questionable to some
Two of our expert sources, Ben El Chami, DMD, a NYC-based dentist and co-founder/chief dental officer of dntlbar and Chris Salierno, DDS, a Melville, NY-based dental practitioner and chief dental officer of Tend, independently named Colgate Total Whitening as a top option they’d recommend to patients looking for a daily whitening boost. It also bears the ADA seal of acceptance, meaning the professional organization support that its efficacy and safety claims are sufficiently backed up by clinical research.
It’s a clear winner in the eyes of the pros because, in addition to whitening power, it has antibacterial properties that help defend against gum disease and tooth decay. These effects come from the active ingredient, stannous fluoride, which also helps offset the increased sensitivity some people experience when using whitening toothpastes.
The minty taste is subtle and not-too-strong without any unpleasant aftertaste. And compared to other toothpaste packaging, we love that Colgate Total has a flat flip-cap for easier access and the option to stand the tube up straight on your sink.
Pros: ADA-approved, no artificial flavorings or colorings, brand prioritizes sustainability and ethics
Cons: Some users dislike the taste, some complain that it’s less effective than traditional toothpastes in keeping breath fresh, price
Tom’s of Maine Simply White is one of very few toothpaste brands in the “natural” sector to earn ADA approval with proven whitening effects. If you prefer to steer clear of traditional toothpastes because of their ingredients, production process, or simply personal preference, Tom’s Simply White is the best bet for whiter teeth, vouched for by dentists and customers.
Like most whitening toothpastes, Tom’s Simply White uses abrasives — in this case naturally-derived silicas — to scrub off surface stains. It’s flavored with peppermint oil which delivers a mild, not overpowering fresh flavor. The tube is recyclable, which we love, and it has a smaller cap and opening which, in our experience, makes for less of a mess but also means you can’t store it upright on your bathroom counter.
Tom’s also contains fluoride. There are oft-debated but largely unproven or debunked arguments against the naturally-occurring mineral, but it’s an ingredient the ADA and every dentist we spoke with strongly encourage people to look for in their toothpaste thanks to decades-long body of evidence that make it the gold standard in cavity prevention.
Cons: Some users dislike taste and texture, not enough relief for extremely sensitive users, whitening effects are subtle
There aren’t too many whitening toothpastes on the market that specifically cater to those with sensitive teeth. Crest Pro Health Gum and Sensitivity Gentle Whitening, however, does and it’s the only ADA-approved toothpaste that offers both sensitivity relief and whitening effects. The stain removal is provided by hydrated silica, which acts as a gentle abrasive. This isn’t as extreme as some other products, both in terms of removing stains and causing sensitivity, so it’s a real trade off. But it’s the best-researched option out there for sensitivity sufferers looking for stain removal action.
The minty-sweet taste is mild but pleasant, and users say that, compared to other leading brands of sensitive toothpaste, it both tastes better and relieves sensitivity better. Like the Colgate Total SF Whitening Gel, we like that this tube has a flat flip cap for easy closure and the ability to stand vertical on a countertop to save space.
Colgate Optic White Advanced, like the other products on our list, contains gentle abrasives to scrub stains and polish teeth. But it also uses hydrogen peroxide for its natural lightening properties, giving you a one-two punch of whitening techniques – sort of like washing your white laundry with not just a strong detergent, but bleach too.
It’s the only bleaching toothpaste (not merely stain-removing) that the ADA has granted approval to, and like all ADA-approved pastes, it includes fluoride for cavity prevention. Despite its powerful whitening ability, Optic White is safe for enamel and many people report less sensitivity and irritation than with other whitening toothpastes.
The toothpaste works by creating a sort of film on the surface of your teeth so that the hydrogen peroxide can continue to work for more than just the two minutes you spend brushing. As a result, some people don’t like the feeling it leaves after you brush.
How I tested
In researching this piece, I consulted four dental professionals (see Expert Sources, below) as well as several published, peer-reviewed articles testing the efficacy and safety of various whitening toothpaste and active ingredients.
I also personally tried several kinds of toothpaste to take note of:
Taste: Toothpaste is toothpaste, not candy, so we don’t want to oversell the flavor of any of the products as “delicious” – but some pastes have strange, chemical, or overly-powerful flavors and aftertastes. Most of the pastes I tried had a simple, fresh taste that contributes to the overall clean feeling you want after brushing, but a few tasted mildly metallic or just plain unusual due to non-traditional flavoring ingredients.
Texture: Generally, toothpaste is either a gel or a paste and is pretty thick. I paid mind to see if any felt chalky, runny, or gritty, as well as how well they lather and spread around the mouth. Items that didn’t make the cut usually felt weird in one of these ways.
Packaging/ease of use – It’s not terribly common, but some toothpaste tubes are somewhat difficult to use because of poorly-designed packaging. For example: one of the toothpastes I don’t recommend, the Plus Ultra, is in a metal tube similar to what artists’ paint comes in and was kind of a pain to squeeze. Conversely, all our picks have easy-to-open or -close caps.
What to look for in whitening toothpaste
There are two major categories of whitening ingredients in toothpaste: abrasives and bleaching agents. Most whitening toothpastes rely on gentle, enamel-safe abrasives that work to scrub off stains caused by eating and drinking. Technically, they’re not changing the color of your teeth, just cleaning off any gunk that might make them appear more yellow. This is going to be the vast majority of whitening toothpastes available, and is why most people need to use at-home whitening kits to see a truly brighter smile.
Bleaching agents (like peroxide), on the other hand, can actually lift the color in the outermost layers of your enamel. However, they’re less common in toothpastes because they usually need more than two minutes of contact to really work (hence, why whitening strips work – they hold the bleaching agent on your teeth for several minutes). Additionally, bleaching agents can be irritating and cause sensitivity for some. The only bleaching toothpaste that made our top picks, Colgate Optic White, actually creates a film that sits on your teeth, keeping them in contact with the hydrogen peroxide for longer than the few minutes you spend brushing.
According to Drs. El Chami, Hain, and Springs, the number one thing to look for when shopping for new products is the ADA seal of acceptance. Brands can choose to submit their products to the American Dental Association, a non-profit advocating for safe dental practices, for review to obtain its seal which signals that the dental community agrees there is enough research to substantiate that a product is safe and effective. This is especially important when it comes to whitening toothpastes, as they tend to use abrasives like silica (the same stuff that makes up most of sand) to scrub off stains. The ADA review ensures those abrasives aren’t doing more harm to your enamel than good.
The other thing you need to look for is fluoride, a mineral that strengthens enamel and helps prevent cavities. The naturally-occurring mineral has been demonized by phony science, but the ADA, all our experts, and a whole body of research deem it not only safe in your toothpaste, but also necessary for preventing cavities. Learn more in our FAQs.
The only ingredients dentists recommend you avoid are sugars, which improve the flavor of toothpaste but can cause adverse effects including tooth decay. Fortunately, the majority of toothpastes utilize tooth-safe sugar alternatives like xylitol or stevia.
What else we considered
Relatively few products on the market bear the ADA approval seal, which our sources overwhelmingly told us was the best way to know a product’s claims have been substantiated by research and thus the ones we can recommend to you most confidently. That said, a product without the seal isn’t necessarily ineffectual or bad — it just likely didn’t undergo the organization’s optional review process (which does cost money, so is difficult for smaller companies to obtain). Here are some other, non-ADA-approved products that came up in our research:
What else we recommend
BURST Fluoride ($10): This brand’s fluoridated toothpaste also boasts a lack of sodium lauryl sulfate, along with parabens and artificial flavors and colors, but it tastes and feels perfectly normal.
Smile Direct Club Premium Fluoride Whitening ($5): The brand you probably know from their subway ads also sells a whitening toothpaste, and it happens to be relatively inexpensive compared to other new-wave brands. It also tastes really good, in this writer’s opinion.
PLUS ULTRA Mint Toothpaste ($10): This toothpaste takes “natural” to another level, starting with its unique leafy green appearance. It doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate, and its plant-derived ingredients are organic — but it also lacks fluoride, so we can’t recommend it.
Huppy Peppermint Toothpaste Tablets ($12): Frequent travelers may appreciate that this paste comes in the form of tablets, complete with a little storage tin. Fluoride is left out, instead including a substance called nano-hydroxyapatite. But these tablets also contain charcoal, the safety of which is still hotly contested among dentists.
Luster Premium White Pearl Paste ($7): This paste doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate or parabens, but it does contain fluoride (important) and one other notable ingredient: pearl extracts, which purportedly work as abrasives to buff off surface stains. There’s no published clinical research on pearl as a tooth whitening agent, but telling people you brush your teeth with pearls will make you sound very fancy.
Do whitening toothpastes actually work?
Yes — just maybe not as well as you might hope. Dr. Salierno explained to Insider that over-the-counter whitening toothpastes are best at removing surface stains, but for a more dramatic whitening effect, professional methods are your best bet.
“The true whitening effect that patients are typically after is the result of the removal of intrinsic stain, or stain that is more deeply embedded in the tooth surface,” Salierno said. “In order to get a great whitening result, patients would do well to have a professional cleaning first, and then use a prescription-strength whitening agent as directed by their dental team.”
Bottom line: Whitening toothpastes are safe and can be effective at removing surface stains — just don’t expect a dramatic transformation from over-the-counter toothpaste alone.
Is charcoal toothpaste safe to whiten teeth?
Glad you asked. Charcoal is a trendy ingredient right now, making its way into food, cosmetics, and yes, toothpaste. The idea is that charcoal is able to absorb impurities and thus whiten teeth, but the clinical evidence isn’t great: Reviews of laboratory studies suggest that charcoal isn’t particularly effective as a whitening agent, despite its mildly abrasive properties. What’s more, it has the potential to damage your enamel, discolor it permanently, and damage your gums, according to a 2019 study in the British Dental Journal.
More recent research supports the safety of charcoal toothpastes, but dentists and researchers caution consumers that the charcoal actually runs the risk of scratching enamel or getting stuck in the gums and other crevices. Those with fillings should especially steer clear.
Is whitening toothpaste safe for my teeth?
For the most part, yes. While many whitening toothpastes use abrasive agents to scrub away stains, dentists and researchers generally find them safe and non-damaging to the enamel of your teeth. There are a few exceptions — see about charcoal, above — but for most people, whitening toothpastes don’t pose a threat to dental health. Dr. El Chami does caution, however, that those with sensitive teeth may want to avoid whitening toothpastes in favor of something gentler.
Paul Springs, DMD, a prosthodontist who practices in Queens, New York, elaborated, adding, “Some brands contain grit particles that are too large, which irreversibly wears down tooth enamel. This is often an issue with charcoal or baking soda toothpastes made by unrecognizable brands, so I strongly recommend patients only use toothpastes with the ADA seal of approval to avoid that issue.”
Just because a product doesn’t bear the ADA seal doesn’t mean it’s unsafe, but lesser-known brands may use questionable ingredients (or even questionable forms of ingredients that are generally considered tooth-safe) that are too gritty and can wear down your enamel. The ADA seal is your confirmation that everything in the tube is safe for at-home use.
What’s the big deal about the ADA Seal of Acceptance?
As we mentioned earlier, the ADA seal program is an optional review process in which companies may choose to submit a product to the professional organization for independent review to determine if there is sufficient research backing up the safety and efficacy of the product.
Because the review process is optional and potentially cost-prohibitive to smaller companies, there are many toothpastes and other dental products on the market that don’t bear the ADA seal. This doesn’t necessarily mean the products aren’t up to snuff — but the dentists we consulted with highly recommend sticking to ADA-approved products to ensure you’re getting a product that actually works and is safe.
As Dr. Springs put it, “Not having the seal isn’t enough to condemn a product, but there is enough that [damage enamel] that I wouldn’t risk chancing it.”
Is fluoride really safe?
Fluoride has been demonized by oversimplified health information and conspiracy theories for decades for supposedly causing dental staining and even cancer. While this is technically true of the chemical, it would need to be ingested in very large quantities to have these severe negative effects, far more than fluoridated water and toothpaste are likely to provide.
The dental community is at a consensus that not only is fluoridated toothpaste safe, it’s strongly recommended for the purpose of preventing cavities and strengthening enamel throughout your life. In fact, the ADA will not grant its seal of acceptance to any toothpaste which does not include fluoride. This goes for standard as well as whitening toothpastes — ideally fluoride is going to be included in any toothpaste you use daily.
Dr. Ben El Chami, DMD is a dentist and the co-founder and chief dental officer of dntlbar, a family of Manhattan dental practices.
Dr. Chris Salierno, DDS is a dentist and the chief dental officer of Tend, a family of dental practices with locations in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
Dr. Courtney Hain, DDS is a dentist who owns and operates her own practice, Smile San Francisco.
Nobody likes going to the dentist, but if you take good care of your teeth between visits, the cleaning will go easier. We researched and tested many kinds of toothpaste to find the best ones you can buy.
We want you to keep your teeth healthy and strong for a lifetime. That’s why we’ve done the research to bring you five electric toothbrushes that we feel are the best choices for the most people.
We visited the top consumer websites, listened to actual product owners, and considered advice from dentists and dental hygienists when making our decisions. So go ahead and break out your favorite toothpaste. Healthy, clean white teeth are on their way.
There’s plenty to be said for the classic manual toothbrush: It can’t run out of batteries and it’s compact, lightweight, and portable.
We chose a wide array of manual toothbrushes, from the low-cost disposable brush you keep on hand for guests to the Cadillac-level manual toothbrush that the classic oral hygiene aficionado will appreciate to unique options, like charcoal-infused toothbrushes that might just help bring out your brightest, whitest smile ever.
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Ice cream is the perfect summer treat, and vegan options are more abundant than ever.
Sure, you may have heard of Oatly and So Delicious, but the world of artisan vegan ice cream is vast.
Here are 6 vegan ice cream brands you probably haven’t heard of but need to try this summer.
My picks include an olive oil ice cream, macadamia nut milk ice cream, and coconut meat ice cream.
I am a full-time food journalist and eat more ice cream than anyone I know. Over the years, I’ve published stories about the best ice cream parlors in the United States, gourmet soft serve, ice cream sandwiches and artisan ice cream makers that began shipping their ice cream nationally during the pandemic. I’ve even been invited to judge gelato festivals and weighed in on new flavors by cult favorite ice cream makers at company headquarters. Last summer, I received 60 pints of ice cream from nearly a dozen different brands delivered on the same day and all the liquid nitrogen fog permeated my entire house.
Recently, I’ve discovered more and more great plant-based ice creams popping up. I’ve tasted through flavors from more than 20 different vegan ice cream brands and have learned that vegan ice cream can be just as delightful and delicious as dairy ice cream. Even if you’re not vegan, trying plant-based ice creams offer unique flavor combinations you won’t find in dairy ice cream.
Sure, I’ve tried the usual vegan ice cream suspects you find in grocery stores, but I’ve been truly delighted by the small-batch artisanal brands, many of which are charting new territory in the world of plant-based ice cream. Below you’ll find six bespoke vegan ice cream brands that I love; many you probably haven’t heard of before.
Here are 6 vegan ice cream brands worth trying this summer:
The first and only macadamia milk ice cream
Mauna Loa Macadamia Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, $9.99 per pint, available on Instacart and Mauna Loa
Most vegan ice creams are made with coconut, cashew, soy or almond milk bases, but Hawaii’s most famous producer of macadamia nuts, Mauna Loa, has upped the ante, debuting the first and only macadamia milk-based frozen dessert this summer.
Higher in monounsaturated fat and lower in carbs than other popular nuts, macadamia makes for an ultra creamy base that’s also keto-diet friendly. Flavors like Kona coffee, vanilla orchid and mango liliko’i showcase more of Hawaii’s natural bounty and there’s even the cheeky Rocky Road to Hana, named for the famous winding drive on Maui. This is the most decadent flavor of all — a fudgy chocolate base studded with soft marshmallows and crunchy macadamias instead of almonds.
While you can purchase pints online, they’re also available at Sprouts in 23 states and Albertsons and Safeway locations in California, Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii and Seattle.
A small batch oat milk ice cream with inventive mix-ins
Oat milk is the plant-based milk alternative of choice among baristas for its thick, creamy texture in lattes and cappuccinos, so it’s no surprise that it also makes a rich ice cream base. Sisters Courtney Blagrove and Zan B.R. make their own oat milk for their new line of oat milk “ice crème” at Whipped Urban Dessert Lab. This stuff is better than Oatly and chock full of mix-ins like strawberry shortcake crumbles, chocolate cookie chunks, and cinnamon apple crisp.
This is the first ice cream brand that I’ve seen where the pint packaging is labeled upside down too. Apparently, storing ice cream (or ice crème!) upside down in the freezer helps prevent freezer burn because any partially melted bits will collect on the lid, which keeps ice crystals from forming.
Next time I’m in New York, my first stop will be Whipped Urban Dessert Lab’s Lower East Side storefront to try a swirl of sweet creme and chocolate twist at the world’s first oat milk soft serve shop.
A modern Mediterranean plant-based gelato
Wildgood Plant-Based Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, $9 per pint, available on Instacart and Wildgood
Olive oil has been a cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet for millennia, but could it also be the secret to rich, creamy vegan ice cream that’s low in saturated fat? Rather than using nut milk, Wildgood relies on a blend of extra virgin olive oil, pea protein and chicory root fiber, sweetened with fructose, to achieve a soft and creamy consistency straight out of the freezer. All of the olive oil comes from Greek ice cream maker Sotiris Tsichlopoulos’ family’s ancient groves in Corfu.
For an ice cream so low in saturated fat and calories, Wildgood is surprisingly rich and you can really taste the olive oil in each flavor, adding a sophisticated savory undertone. Chocolate hazelnut is a favorite, reminiscent of the best gianduja chocolate spread I’ve ever tried in Piedmont.
With such a short ingredient list, the quality of each ingredient is paramount. Simple flavors without many mix-ins allow ingredients like Alphonso mango, California pistachios and Oregon hazelnuts to shine.
Wildgood is available in eight flavors so far, and you can find it on Instacart or order online to ship anywhere in the continental United States.
Scoops on Tap was created by two friends who love craft beer and ice cream and wanted to blend them together for a line of beer- and spirit-infused ice creams. Up until recently, their product was only available at farmers market and specialty retailers in Southern California, but now they’re shipping pints nationally with Goldbelly.
After Hours vanilla bourbon is a year-round favorite that I most enjoy with a shot of espresso poured over top and sprinkled liberally with toasted cacao nibs. The sumptuously smooth texture is a combination of a coconut cream and oat milk and don’t worry — it’s less than 5% ABV.
Seasonally, many more plant-based boozy ice creams are available, like Cocosaurus Rex, a toasted coconut ice cream with a fair trade dark chocolate fudge swirl infused with a coconut stout, and Madeline, a lemon and grape sorbet steeped on toasted oak chips infused with a grape sour ale. The latter is perfect as a refreshing float with prosecco if you wish to add more booze to the equation.
Hand harvested certified organic and fair-trade young coconut meat, plus coconut sugar and raw coconut oil forms the holy coconut trinity that is the base of all Sacred Serve gelato flavors. Superfoods like matcha green tea, Afghan saffron, chaga mushrooms and raw cacao are blended in for an ingredient list that’s so nutritious you’re almost suspicious that these could possibly taste good — until you take the first bite. This gelato is subtly sweet with a super creamy texture.
Sacred Serve’s newest flavor is a reinvention of childhood favorite cookies and cream with tigernut cookies instead of typical Oreos. The cookie crumble is darkened with activated charcoal and made with prebiotic-rich tigernut flour and adaptogenic mucuna.
The gelato is rock hard when you first pull it from the freezer, so you need to let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so to melt to a creamy consistency. You can find Sacred Serve in more than 150 stores across the country including Whole Foods, Foxtrot, Plum Market and Erewhon.
Lisa Stoy’s plant-based gelatos all have four ingredients or less, starting with a coconut milk base sweetened with maple syrup, plus fresh mint, vanilla beans, cardamom, turmeric or cacao depending on the flavor. The ice cream sandwiches at Green Girl Bakeshop have just the right ratio of cookie to ice cream, keeping the focus squarely on the ice cream with the cookies playing a supporting role.
Depending on the flavor, the ice cream is sandwiched between gluten-free chocolate chip, dark chocolate, or ginger cookies, made with cassava flour and applesauce. It almost sounds too healthy to be a cookie, but they freeze nicely, remaining soft enough to bite into without the ice cream squishing out the sides. The golden turmeric ice cream with ginger cookies and the classic vanilla bean ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies are the best of the bunch.
Our testing methodology
I’m a food journalist with a predilection for ice cream and I’ve been known to regularly finish a pint in one sitting. Recently, I have been eating a predominantly plant-based diet and made it my mission to find the best plant-based ice creams that are just as satisfying as the dairy ice cream I’ve known and loved.
Flavor: Favorite flavors vary widely among ice cream lovers, so I included ice creams that recreated classic flavors impeccably as well as innovating new flavors. Most of all, I should be able to easily discern the flavor in a blind taste test and the ice cream shouldn’t taste muddied or cloyingly sweet. You should be able to eat a full scoop without feeling like you’ve developed a cavity.
Texture: A great plant-based ice cream should mimic the decadently smooth and satisfying mouthfeel of premium dairy ice cream. I chose ice creams that didn’t taste watery or gummy and didn’t develop too many ice crystals.
Ingredients: The best plant-based ice creams use high-quality ingredients, and I looked for shorter ingredient lists made with real foods rather than ice creams filled with emulsifiers and sweetened with corn syrup or glucose syrup. For example, Oatly’s frozen dessert, which includes dextrose, dried glucose syrup and rapeseed oil, did not make the cut.
Check out our other vegan and vegetarian food guides
But the piece of equipment is actually really easy to get the hang of, and the odd shape of a kettlebell allows for a more dynamic range of movement than you get with a traditional dumbbell. Thus, kettlebells are used not only for strength training but also for cardio work, flexibility and balance training, and to target multiple muscle groups at once. Kettlebells are incredibly diverse, but they also open the door for challenging moves you can’t otherwise do – like a kettlebell swing – and add another layer of challenge to tried-and-true exercises like goblet squats.
Kettlebells have a lot of advantages and they almost always level up the fun of a workout. But they shouldn’t be treated as toys which is why it’s important to learn proper form for every move. At the end of this guide, I’ve also included answers to a few FAQs to better help you understand the kind of kettlebells you should shop for and how much weight to look for.
Whether your fitness goal is to build muscle strength, improve your cardiorespiratory fitness, or continue to challenge your body in new and exciting ways, one single bell can help you achieve any of these.
Pros: Protective vinyl coating, easy-to-use color coding for different weights, decent price point
Cons: Maximum weight too low for some athletes
It only takes smashing a cast-iron kettlebell into the side of your knee one time to help you understand that features like a softer vinyl coating is really nice to have on your kettlebell.
“I’ve used Everlast kettlebells for years,” Cincotta told Insider. “When the bell itself is coated like this, as opposed to metal-based, you’re able to do much more with the bell without accidentally tearing up your body.”
If you’re buying more than one, it’s nice that the Everlast’s Vinyl Dipped Kettlebells have bright colorings to mark different weights, so you’re at less risk of grabbing the wrong weight for a given exercise. The kettlebells are also available in increments between five and 35 pounds.
Whether used for suitcase squats, lunges, presses, or core training, these are reliable kettlebells from a company with more than 110 years of history in the fitness gear arena.
The best kettlebell for interval training
TRX Training Kettlebells have lightly textured handles that allow for a secure grip and easy transitions, ideal for use during high-intensity exercise.
Pros: Textured handles for secure grip; multiple weights offered; broad, flat base adds stability
If you’re a fan of HIIT exercise (high-intensity interval training), you’ll love these kettlebells that are perfectly suited to fast, highly specific motions. Their textured grips ensure you keep a steady grasp even when you’re sweaty, moving fast, and rapidly switching between various different exercises.
TRX offers kettlebells from four kilograms (8.8 pounds) all the way up to 40 kg (88 pounds) with moderate increases between each option. That means you can choose the exact amount of weight to suit your body for any given exercise. (Find out more in how to choose the right weight kettlebell.)
These bells also have a broader, more flat base compared to competitors. That extra flattened surface area makes these kettlebells more stable when you set them down fast, like during HIIT workouts.
One significant drawback is the price, however — these aren’t cheap.
Pros: Six weights in one, affordable compared to buying all six weights, easy to adjust
Cons: Expensive up front; handle is less ergonomic than others; bulky, especially for use at lighter weight
Yes, $149 is a lot to pay for a kettlebell. But with the Bowflex SelectTech 840, you’re actually getting six kettlebells in one, which turns this into quite the deal.
The 840 gets its name from its lowest and highest weights, which are eight pounds and 40 pounds, respectively. In between those low and high options, you get 12-, 20-, 25-, and 35-pound increments, a good spread for people of varying strength and for a single person’s use at varied exercises.
Switching between weights is quick and easy, too. You simply turn a dial and lift up on the handle, and the extra weight is left sitting there on the ground. Beyond the ease of use during active exercise, you’ll also appreciate what is effectively six kettlebells only occupying the space of one.
The benefits of this design are clear, but there are a few drawbacks — the largest of which is that kettlebell is less ergonomic than a standard option. The handle is slimmer and doesn’t have the flared shape of most kettlebells, and the overall unit is larger than solid options, which might make some exercises harder to execute properly.
With a few reps, you should get used to the shape, though, and the value far outweighs the cons.
The best budget kettlebell
AmazonBasics Vinyl Kettlebell has many features of other brands like a gentler vinyl coating and range of weight choices, but you’ll pay a few bucks less.
Pros: Great price point, good spread of weight increments, colorful, vinyl coatings
Cons: Grips often have minor imperfections
There’s plenty of positive things to say about the kettlebells from AmazonBasics. They’re coated in a thick vinyl that protects your skin and helps minimize the chance of scuffing the floor or scratching a piece of furniture; they come in a wide range of weights, starting at 10 pounds and reaching all the way up to 60, with 11 increments along the way; and their colorful coatings make it easy to tell one weight from another.
That description fits just about any decent set of kettlebells. What sets these apart from the pack is that they cost on average 15% less than its competitors — and you can use your free Prime shipping for delivery.
For that reduced price, you can expect a slight reduction in quality. Many of the kettlebells sold under the AmazonBasics banner have minor imperfections in the handles such as irregular bumps or little holes.
These flaws shouldn’t be deal-breakers unless you have sensitive hands, for which you can also work out with gloves on.
The best soft-sided kettlebell
The Bionic Body Soft Kettlebell is plenty heavy but soft-to-the-touch, so you won’t break a toe or crack a tile if you accidentally drop one.
Pros: Safer for flooring and injury, decent price point for a unique product
Cons: Leather exterior damages more easily than standard kettlebell
If you work out often enough, at some point you are going to have an accident. Dropping weights is a fact of life, and it’s why gyms have padded floors. If you’re working out on the hardwood or tile floors of your own home, that dropped weight might lead to an unexpected and unpleasant home repair project — or, potentially, an ER trip to fix a broken toe.
Working out with a soft-sided kettlebell solves this. Bionic Body’s Soft Kettlebells come in a decent range of weights, spanning 10 to 35 pounds, and they’re durable and solid-feeling in your hands.
There’s no sacrifice of function in the name of making them soft-sided, and you won’t even pay that much more for these kettlebells than you would for standard iron or vinyl-coated weights.
The leather wraps around the weights won’t chafe or irritate your skin, so these kettlebells make for more comfort. But with them being leather, the exterior can get scuffed and torn in a way a solid kettlebell can’t, so you do need to treat these with a bit more care than with other options.
What else we considered
Many brands offer their own version of the kettlebell incredibly similar to one another, so there’s little reason to look much beyond the list we put together. There are, however, a few specialty options and accessories worth your consideration:
Meister MMA Elite Portable Sand Kettlebell ($13): This option is made from rugged PVC that can be filled with sand to create a functional kettlebell. Empty, the sack packs down flat for easy storage or travel. Filled and with the neoprene handle wrapped into place, this portable kettlebell lets you knock out snatches, standing rows, and more anywhere you go — so long as you can find sand. And for under $15, you can’t beat it.
Kettle Gryp ($35): The Kettle Gryp is a one-pound plastic grip that affixes to any dumbbell with a grip wider than 4.5 inches and converts dumbbells into kettlebells. So that stack of free weights you have there in your garage? Every one of those could be used just like a kettlebell.
Before you start swinging your new kettlebells around wildly, make sure you take some time to learn how to properly execute the exercises for which they are so helpful when used correctly.
“When you’re using kettlebells, safety is the first thing,” R.J. Cincotta, director of fitness with Orangetheory Fitness Long Island, told Insider. “Many people just start swinging them around and don’t focus on form. There’s such a dynamic difference using them [compared to other weights] that you really need to learn form, first. And you don’t want to go too heavy too quickly; that’s a very easy way to get injured.”
With that advice in mind, we tested a variety of kettlebells from brands like Everlast, TRX, and Bowflex to find the best currently available. So, no matter if you’re just looking for a set to round out your home gym or want to kick your weekly fitness routine up a few notches, there’s a set of kettlebells perfect for you.
What weight of kettlebell should I buy?
The problem with buying a single piece of strength equipment like a set of dumbbells or a kettlebell is that different moves call for different resistance amounts. One of the main selling points of a kettlebell is that it’s such a diverse piece of equipment, but to really maximize its use, you want to choose the single weight that will deliver the most bang for your buck.
When thinking about what weight will be most useful, it’s better to go a little heavier, San Diego-based trainer Pete McCall, CSCS, host of the All About Fitness podcast, told Insider. “Kettlebells are often used for exercises like swings and goblet squats, and for these lower body movements, heavier is better,” he says.
What’s more a heavier kettlebell actually forces you to use better form and technique. “Going too light could lead to “cheating” during the lift which, in turn, could result in injury,” he said. (We know — it’s the rare instance the injury risk is in going too light instead of too heavy).
If you’re going light, McCall also advises looking for a competition-style kettlebell. “With traditional kettlebells, as the weight gets lighter, the handle gets smaller,” he explained.
But competition-style bells have more room between the bell and the handle, which can be a lot easier to grip, especially for those not used to the equipment.
What kind of workouts can you use a kettlebell for?
R.J. Cincotta provided some professional perspective on the importance of kettlebells, and although most Orangetheory gyms don’t use kettlebells, he was able to speak to Insider based on his own extensive fitness experience.
“Kettlebells are best used for power movements,” Cincotta said. “You’re going to use them for squats and swings, and you’ll use them for a lot of single-sided exercises often referred to as asymmetrical movements. You can even use kettlebells for stability work as well.”
What makes a kettlebell harder to use than a dumbbell lies in its shape, which puts the weight several inches away from your hand. This means you’ll need to activate more of your muscles as you stabilize the weight. With a kettlebell, every single-handed exercise like curls, shoulder presses, snatches, and so on is that much more productive.
And for two-handed exercises like goblet squats, the grip shape means added stability so you can focus on your form, as well as your core, glutes, quads, and other muscles.
Is there a significant injury risk with buying a kettlebell that’s too heavy?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Using a heavier kettlebell will lead to more results because you’ll have to work harder to move it and therefore use more muscle. Keep in mind however, that “heavier” is entirely relative. As Cincotta mentioned (and any trainer will tell you), a weight above your strength level is the fast track to injury.
Generally, the best way to choose a weight is to borrow a friend’s or pop into your local sporting goods store and see what feels comfortable for moves like lunges and squats. But if you can’t do that, McCall offers some guidelines for what weight is good for most people:
If you don’t have a solid foundation of muscle mass already or experience using a kettlebell, aim for a 20- to 25-pound (12kg) kettlebell for a female, and a 30- to 35-pound (16kg) bell for a male.
For those experienced with a kettlebell (i.e., have been using one 1-2 times a week already), females should opt for a 30- to 45-pound (16 or 20kg) bell, males for 40- to 50-pound (20 to 24kg) kettlebell.
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“Any athlete or active person who is consistently training at high intensities may benefit from creatine supplementation,” Asche added. What’s more, a large 2017 study analysis found creatine is safe to take both short and long-term (up to 5 years).
Creatine is found in our muscle cells, and it’s instrumental in producing the energy our bodies run on (called ATP), especially for an intense workout, explains Martin MacDonald, PgCert, PgDip, a clinical performance nutritionist and director of Mac-Nutrition. Your muscles will take longer to fatigue, so over time that can add up to performance and muscle gains, says both MacDonald and plenty of studies.
In addition to letting you work out harder, for longer, it’s also helpful for retaining muscle mass if you’re recovering from an injury, and for vegans and vegetarians who tend to have lower phosphocreatine stores, Asche adds.
What we like: 240 servings per tub, pure creatine monohydrate
Check out the label of Optimum Nutrition’s Micronized Creatine Monohydrate Powder, and you’ll see that it lists just one ingredient: creatine monohydrate. According to the experts we interviewed for this article, that’s a major plus because you don’t want or need anything else in your creatine supplement. Unlike other creatine powders on the market, this one should last you for several months because it contains 240 5-gram servings, and at a really reasonable price. Because it’s micronized (processed to improve solubility), this supplement dissolves easily in water, juice, or any other liquid. The only potential downside is that the tub doesn’t come with its own scooper. That said, you can use a rounded teaspoon as a serving size.
The best creatine supplement made with Creapure
What we like: Main ingredient comes from a reputable manufacturer, certified vegan
When it comes to supplements, ensuring they contain what they say they do is a major concern, as the FDA doesn’t measure the effectiveness, safety, or purity of nutritional supplements. That’s why many people opt for creatine supplements made using Creapure, a pure form of creatine monohydrate made in Germany. There are several different supplement brands that use Creapure in their creatine supplements, and Muscle Feast’s version is among the best. Not only is it a great value with 168 servings in a tub, but it was also recently certified as a vegan product. This product isn’t micronized, but it still dissolves well in liquids and is flavorless, so you won’t notice it whatever drink you mix it with.
The best creatine for athletes
What we like: High quality standards, NSF certified
Supplement purity is especially important for athletes, who can be disqualified from competing if they test positive for any banned substances. Sometimes, athletes aren’t aware of banned substances that are in their nutritional supplements. Though that might not seem like a common occurrence, it can happen.
Thorne Research’s unflavored creatine is a top pick for athletes because of the rigorous quality testing it undergoes. Thorne tests all their supplements in-house four times for quality, purity, and stability. Plus, this creatine supplement is NSF Certified for Sport, which is one of the top third-party supplement certifications. This mark essentially means the supplement doesn’t contain any banned substances, and that what’s on the label matches what’s actually in the product. Thorne also uses Creapure as the main ingredient, which means you can count on the creatine being high quality and easily mixable.
The best hypoallergenic creatine supplement
What we like: Free from unnecessary fillers, well-regarded manufacturer
If you have a milk, soy, egg, or wheat allergy, it can be tricky to find the right creatine supplement, as some manufacturers can’t guarantee that their products won’t contain traces of these allergens. This is particularly true for brands that make protein powders that use these ingredients. Pure Encapsulations prides itself on being safe for those with food allergies, and is well-known in the supplement space for being a reliable source of high-quality supplements. This unflavored creatine powder is made up of 100 percent creatine monohydrate, is certified gluten-free, and is free from unnecessary binders, fillers, and preservatives. It clocks in at 4 grams of creatine per serving and is available in two tub sizes (8.8 ounces and 17.6 ounces).
The best quick-dissolving creatine supplement
What we like: Mixes seamlessly, NSF certified
For some people, a gritty texture makes it really difficult to get their creatine supplement down. Micronized creatine goes through extra processing to make it more easily dissolvable, so if this is a concern, it’s best to opt for a supplement that clearly states it’s micronized. Bodylogix’s version is unflavored, NSF Certified for Sport, and made from pure creatine monohydrate. The tub comes with 60 servings, or enough to last at least a couple of months. Those who don’t want any fillers in their supplements will be glad to know this product doesn’t contain any dyes, additives, preservatives, colors, flavors, or sweeteners.
About creatine supplements
How much creatine should you take?
The common advice you’ll hear on creatine dosage is to take 5 grams of creatine per day. That dosage will work, MacDonald says, but there is a more efficient way to ensure your muscles are saturated with creatine.
“The fastest way to saturate the muscle with creatine is to consume 20g or ~0.3 grams per kg of body weight a day of creatine monohydrate for seven days,” MacDonald says. So if you weigh 60kg (132 pounds), you’d take 18 grams of creatine per day for a week. MacDonald recommends splitting this across 4 doses a day to reduce the chances of GI distress.
After seven days, you can go down to a maintenance dose that is one-tenth of this (0.03 grams/kg of body weight per day). So using the 60kg person example, that’d be 1.8 grams a day. There’s no harm in taking the standard dose of 5 grams a day, MacDonald says, but you don’t need that much to maintain your levels.
Are there any side effects of taking creatine?
As mentioned above, higher doses of creatine (more than 5 grams at a time) may cause digestive discomfort. Also, don’t be surprised if you see the scale jump right after you start taking creatine. It can cause water weight gain due to your muscles holding more water than usual. But in terms of your health, studies have shown that you can safely take up to 30g per day for at least 5 years.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t take creatine?
Experts emphasize that overall, creatine is a safe supplement to take. “The only caution worth mentioning is in those who have pre-existing issues with their kidneys,” MacDonald says. If you have any kidney problems, it’s smart to check in with your doctor before starting creatine. Also, those on medication should always check with their doctor before use, Vichill adds.
How long should you take creatine supplements?
You can take creatine indefinitely. “In fact, long-term supplementation has been shown to have lasting improvements on performance, and a positive effect on lean body mass over time,” Asche says.
Do you need to cycle creatine doses?
You may see recommendations about cycling creatine, for example, supplementing for 12 weeks and then taking 4 weeks off. The rationale behind this was that since we produce less of our own creatine when supplementing, it’d be smart to give your body a break to “recover” and start producing more creatine again. But this advice is outdated and unnecessary, MacDonald says. “While we produce less creatine in our bodies when we supplement, it goes straight back up whenever we stop taking creatine.”
What types of fitness goals does supplementing with creatine make sense for?
Supplementing with creatine makes the most sense for people who want to improve their athletic performance, maintain muscle mass (including after injury), or gain muscle mass. If you’re trying to cut significant weight, for example, there may be no point in supplementing with creatine, says Abby Vichill, MS, RDN, LD, founder of FWDfuel Sports Nutrition.
It’s also worth noting that creatine needs to be combined with proper training and nutrition for best results. Simply taking creatine without eating a diet to support lean muscle gain, or without training in the right capacity, will not cause your performance or results to magically shoot through the roof, Vichill says.
Are there any other benefits to taking creatine?
Aside from creatine’s athletic performance and muscle gain benefits, there have been a host of discoveries relating to health and the use of creatine, according to MacDonald. Creatine is also found in the brain, and research in young children with traumatic brain injury has shown creatine may help reduce the post-traumatic amnesia, the time needed in an intensive care unit, and the time needed for recovery of communication and locomotion, MacDonald says. “This has led to current research on creatine use in sports that lead to regular concussions such as rugby and boxing.” Similarly, some research shows there may be some promise in the use of creatine to benefit other brain concerns such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
What to consider when buying creatine supplements
According to nutrition pros, there are only a few key things to look for when buying a creatine supplement.
First and foremost, you want to get creatine monohydrate. “There are many many different versions of creatine out there, all touted as having superior benefits,” MacDonald says. “However, monohydrate is the most well-studied version of creatine, and other versions have yet to show any extra benefit in the research.”
You also want a supplement that’s purely creatine monohydrate, with no other ingredients. “My advice would be to get a product that says ‘Ingredients: 100% Creatine Monohydrate’ and nothing else,” MacDonald notes. These products will be flavorless, so they can be added to any non-caffeinated drink (caffeine may interfere with creatine’s effects), or even sprinkled on top of your cereal.
Both MacDonald and Vichill recommend powdered creatine over pills, as it’s easier to adjust your dose and generally less expensive.
Lastly, you’ll ideally want to look for a creatine supplement that’s certified by a third-party organization such as NSF or Informed Sport. This is because supplements are not regulated as closely as food products. “Creatine supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and thus may contain contaminants or discrepancies in quantity or quality,” explains Ashley Nader, RD. “Whether you’re an athlete or not, look for a third certification,” she advises. This ensures that what’s inside the package matches with what’s on the label.
Because the safety and efficacy of anything you put inside your body is incredibly important, we thoroughly researched both creatine as a supplement and the specific brands we recommend here. That included speaking to a handful of experts, namely:
Protein, a macronutrient every cell in your body contains, is essential for your health. If you’re an athlete, casual gym-goer, or just want to lose a few pounds, protein also helps you build and retain muscle. Taking whey protein is an effective and inexpensive way to add more of the macronutrient to your diet.
In short, whey is the liquid leftovers that come from the cheese-making process. This liquid is dried into a powder, which is then sometimes (but not always) mixed with sweeteners while keeping calories, carbohydrates, and fats to a minimum.
But there’s more to picking out the right whey protein than just grabbing whatever you find at the store. While some are formulated with different additives, others pack more protein per serving or are designed to keep more of the protein’s natural nutrients.
When Naked Nutrition calls its Naked Whey Protein additive-free, it means it as this protein powder has literally just one ingredient: Whey protein derived from grass-fed cows.
Pros: Contains just whey protein from grass-fed cows, low carbohydrate and fat count per serving, has 5.9 grams of BCAAs per serving
Cons: Not completely devoid of sugar (though there aren’t any artificial sweeteners or flavors), hard to mix, and can sometimes be chunkya
Many of Naked Nutrition’s products live up to the brand’s namesake of being literally naked, though perhaps none do it quite as well as its flagship protein powder, Naked Whey. Comprised of a single ingredient (whey protein from grass-fed cows), Naked Whey is a clean, additive-free product that has no artificial sweeteners, no artificial colors, and no artificial flavors.
From a protein standpoint, one serving of Naked Whey (2 scoops of powder which is roughly 30 grams) delivers 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fat, 120 calories, and just 2 grams of sugar. Each serving also has 5.9 grams of a combination of the BCAAs isoleucine, leucine, and valine. BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) may help build protein in muscles and aid in recovery.
A few drawbacks (or, rather, nitpicks) would be the Naked Whey isn’t the easiest to mix, and requires quite the shake in a shaker bottle to create a smooth, drinkable combination, though you’re likely to still encounter a few clumps. The taste of this is also very plain and almost dairy-like (which makes sense, of course), but Naked does offer the protein in Chocolate, as well as Vanilla and Strawberry in its Less Naked Whey, which has a few more additives.
Naked Whey comes in either a 5 lb. tub for $90 or a smaller 1 lb. option for $22 — and Naked Nutrition even allows customers to set up recurring monthly deliveries at a discounted rate.
If an additive-free protein powder is what you seek, Naked Nutrition’s Naked Whey, with just the single ingredient of whey protein, is about as simple and straightforward as it gets. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor
Pros: Great taste, affordable, mixes smoothly, 24 grams of protein per serving, excellent for baking, third-party tested
Cons: 130 mg of sodium per serving, contains artificial sweeteners
The Cellucor Whey Protein Isolate & Concentrate Blend Powder not only tastes good and has 24 grams of protein per serving, but it’s also the most affordable option in our guide at 71.4 cents per serving and 3 cents per gram of protein. Each serving also only has 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 120 calories.
There are seven flavors to choose from, including whipped vanilla, molten chocolate, and cinnamon swirl. Cellucor recommends mixing two scoops with five to six ounces of your preferred beverage, but you can adjust the amount of liquid to fit your tastes. The company also suggests mixing the powder with yogurt, oatmeal, and pancakes. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman
The best sugar-free whey protein powder
The Platinum Hydrowhey by Optimum Nutrition may be expensive, but it mixes well and boasts 30 grams of protein per serving with zero grams of sugar.
Pros: 30 grams of protein per serving, third-party tested, superb mixability, no sugar
Cons: Contains high-fructose corn syrup
A single serving of Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey yields 140 calories, 30 grams of protein, one gram of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and no sugar. It’s made of hydrolyzed whey protein, which breaks down the protein into smaller pieces for better absorption and easier digestion.
You can choose from seven flavors: cookies and cream overdrive, chocolate mint, velocity vanilla, chocolate peanut butter, supercharged strawberry, turbo chocolate, and red velvet cake, which was the highest-rated flavor on Bodybuilding.com. I think that turbo chocolate tastes great, too.
Optimum Nutrition uses artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and high-fructose corn syrup (which gets counted as a sugar on food labels).
Optimum Nutrition claims you can easily mix this protein with just a spoon and I can confirm this is true. While this may not seem like a strong selling point, I’ve forgotten my shaker bottle at home many times and have had to mix my protein with a spoon or knife at work. When I tried this with other brands, I always got clumpy, gross-tasting shakes. — Andrew Gutman
The best customized whey protein powder
Gainful offers a unique approach to protein powder by offering personalized blends that are formulated specifically to the person ordering it, based on their fitness goals, diet restrictions, and other vital factors.
Pros: The custom is able to serve a wider range of users, doesn’t just rely on whey protein but pea, brown rice, and organic oat, as well, has a team of registered dietitians formulating the blends
Cons: Not the most economical in terms of amount and cost
One of the more unique protein powder options is Gainful, a brand that formulates personalized blends based on your specific needs. This could include weight and fitness goals, the amount you’re active each week, or if you have any dietary restrictions. It even lets you choose options dedicated to getting better sleep or improving gut health.
It’s an interesting approach that succeeds in making the protein you order seem one-of-one. That is, not only does Gainful say it’s formulating a specific blend of protein for you, but when you get it and see what exactly is in it (especially compared to other protein powders), it feels exclusive.
Gainful takes its customization even further by offering flavor packets that mix with the powder to create different taste profiles. My sample came with both rich cocoa and cafe mocha, but the brand offers a variety of others like chocolate peanut butter, strawberry cream, and matcha green tea. You could consume the standard protein on its own, but it’s a very bland flavor when you do (it doesn’t necessarily taste bad, it’s just not very exciting).
The nitpick I’d have with Gainful is that it doesn’t feel like you’re getting much protein for how much you spend. I tend to consume protein most days of the week, and I was able to work through the $39 bag in a little under three weeks. You can opt to get more per shipment (and Gainful can set up a recurring monthly delivery), though the price could feasibly double.
Despite its expensive price compared to others in this guide, what you get with Gainful isn’t offered anywhere else. You’re essentially paying for a premium dietitian service to tailor a protein powder specifically to your needs — for people who keep close tabs on their nutrition and diet, that’s invaluable. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor
The best GNC whey protein powder
GNC’s AMP Wheybolic protein powder offers 40 grams of protein per two-scoop serving, as well as 6.2 grams of leucine, and works great as either a pre- or post-workout supplement.
Pros: Now comes in popular Girl Scout flavors, packs 40 grams of protein and 6.2 grams of leucine per two-scoop serving
Cons: Might be too sweet for some, contains sucralose and other artificial sweeteners
The GNC name is synonymous with workout supplements, and its own branded protein are among its most popular items, specifically its GNC AMP Wheybolic powder. The brand supplied a tub of the powder in the Thin Mints flavor, which is sure to catch the attention of anyone who’s a fan of Girl Scout Cookies (it also offers Girl Scout Coconut Carmel aka Samoas and Girl Scout S’mores).
Each two-scoop serving of the powder offers 40 grams of protein, 6.2 grams of leucine, 210 calories, 7 grams of net carbohydrates, and 2 grams of total sugar. The powder mixes well in water (after about 20 seconds or so of shaking) and never felt chunky or like there were leftover bits that hadn’t fully mixed.
I used this protein primarily as a post-workout drink, though did also test it post-workout and on non-workout days. The Thin Mints flavor is heavy on the chocolate and mint, so if you like sweeter protein powders, this is exactly what that is. I’m not a huge sweet protein powder drinker myself, so would often choose to use this in moderation.
A single $65 tub of the powder comes with 25 two-scoop servings, which is just shy of enough for a month’s worth of use — especially if you prefer to drink it on both workout and non-workout days.
Our nutrition reviewer, Samantha Cassetty, did point out a few things to be cautious of after we spoke to her during testing. First, is the inclusion of sucralose. As we’ve mentioned in other protein powders, sucralose is a sweetener that may upset some people’s stomachs during ingestion. Cassetty pointed out that the powder also includes the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium, has artificial flavoring, and contains carrageenan, a somewhat controversial additive that’s been studied limitedly. — Rick Stella, health and fitness editor
It does this with little or no fat or sugar and only 90 calories per serving. The sodium content is also low at 25 mg per serving.
Labdoor independently tests dozens of whey protein powders, and the site recommended the Myprotein Impact Whey Isolate because it scored high in Labdoor’s ingredient safety, nutritional value, and product purity tests. The testers found there were 21.9 grams of protein in every 25-gram serving.
There are a few complaints worth mentioning, too. Make sure you buy the whey isolate and not just the whey concentrate (If you follow our links, you should be fine). — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman
Labdoor recommends the Dymatize ISO 100 as one of the best whey protein powders. In its tests, the powder had high scores for nutritional value and product purity, including less than one part per million of six harmful substances. Around 91% of the calories in this powder come from its protein content. — James Brains, reviewed by Andrew Gutman
I like Animal because the company doesn’t make gimmicky claims or rely on pseudoscience to sell its products. What you see is what you get and what you get is 120 calories, one gram of fat, 2 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein per serving. Animal uses whey protein isolate as its primary protein source, it’s moderately priced, and it’s third-party tested.
This wasn’t included, however, because it’s no better than any other pick. Compared to Optimum Nutrition or Dymatize or Cellucor, it’s slightly more expensive and isn’t as lauded by fans. It barely missed the cut.
A fan favorite, Pro Jym is comprised of four different proteins: whey protein isolate, micellar casein, egg albumin, and milk protein isolate. According to creator, Dr. Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., this extends the rate of digestion for better protein synthesis. It comes in three flavors: chocolate cookie crunch, cookies and cream, and s’mores, and contains 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, and 24 grams of protein per serving.
Pro Jym missed the mark for two reasons:
You pay more for three times the amount of fat and carbs as Optimum Nutrition’s Platinum Hydrowhey, so it doesn’t fit into our minimum fillers criteria.
I personally like this protein powder because it tastes great, it’s easy on the stomach, and there are minimal extras. One serving of Performix ioWhey is 100 calories, zero grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and 22 grams of protein.
My major issue is that Performix claims ioWhey is absorbed 36% more efficiently than other brands, which is why their protein per serving is low. That sounds great but since the product isn’t third-party tested, there’s no way to know if this is true or if the company’s selling you less protein per serving.
For the price per serving, you’re better off buying Optimum Nutrition or Dymatize ISO 100 if you’re willing to shell out for a premium protein. — Andrew Gutman
What is whey protein?
There are three main types of whey protein:
Whey protein concentrate (WPC): This is a concentrated protein that keeps more of the nutrients. Most non-isolate proteins are comprised of WPC.
Whey protein isolate (WPI): This is similar to WPC but most of the carbohydrates, fat, and fat-soluble vitamins have been removed, so the powder has a higher percentage of protein. Typically, isolate is digested more quickly and, therefore, more agreeable for some. For that reason, most trainers and registered dieticians recommend opting for WPI, though it’s often more expensive.
Whey protein hydrolysate (WPH): WPH is considered pre-digested since it breaks down the amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — to help with quicker absorption.
Is it safe to consume?
Before you increase your protein intake significantly, check with your healthcare professional since people with certain maladies, such as calcium deficiencies or low blood pressure, could experience adverse effects from whey protein.
To know if a protein is tested, look for a seal from either NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice. This doesn’t mean that untested proteins are a subpar product but it’s good to be aware. You are, after all, putting this stuff into your body. Other than looking for brands that are third-party tested, here are different ways to spot a quality protein:
Ensure that protein is the first ingredient on the label. “When you look at a label, it’s in descending order so the ingredient in the highest amount will be found at the top of the list,” Maryann Walsh, a registered dietician and the owner of Walsh Nutrition, told Insider. “Look for labels that have protein at the beginning with fewer ingredients accompanying them.”
Typically, you want a whey powder that contains at least 20 grams of protein per serving. All of our picks do.
Try to steer clear of excess sugar. As for artificial sweeteners, research on how they affect our weight and health is mixed.
How much should you consume?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein consumption is about a gram for every 3 pounds of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, that equates to 60 grams of protein per day. Experts suggest that taking up to twice that still produces benefits.
“For someone who’s trying to gain muscle mass and work out, taking in more protein helps speed up protein synthesis [the process in which your muscle fibers utilize protein to repair and grow],” Johnston said. “For a person who’s strictly trying to lose weight, taking in more protein helps retain the muscle you already have.”
Based on Johnston’s recommendations, a 200-pound man would have to consume 200 grams of protein per day. That’s equivalent to 2 pounds of chicken breast. Supplementing with whey protein, he explains, is a convenient way to get more protein without grilling up another piece of bland chicken.
Where to buy whey protein
When it comes to buying protein, one convenient ordering option is Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” program, since it can save you up to 15%. You’re able to cancel your subscription at any time, too. What’s great about this program is that it automates ordering products that you replenish regularly.
For instance, if you take a serving of protein powder every day and there are 30 servings in a container, you can have a new tub delivered every month without lifting a finger.
Personally, I like to buy my protein from Bodybuilding.com. I usually try a different brand of protein each time I order more, so Amazon’s “Subscribe & Save” program doesn’t make sense for me, although it’s a smart option for many people. Bodybuilding.com has reliable customer reviews and it routinely offers deals on popular brands. As a bonus, it offers free shipping on orders over $75.
To figure out the cost per serving on your own, take the product’s price and divide it by the number of servings in the container. Since the amount of protein per serving varies by brand, it’s also useful to look at the cost per gram of protein. This is easy to calculate by dividing the cost per serving (as calculated above) by the number of grams of protein per serving. — Andrew Gutman
Jeb Stuart Johnston, nutrition and strength coach at Stronger U
This piece was also medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, and a nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
About our writers’ expertise
In developing this guide, we tested close to a dozen of the top protein powders available from brands like Cellucor, Optimum Nutrition, and Naked to find the best across a variety of categories.
The co-author, Andrew Gutman, is a former associate editor at Muscle & Fitness magazine, has competed in a bodybuilding show and two Strongman competitions, and has been lifting weights regularly for more than 10 years. He’s tried dozens of different whey protein powders.
Our guide features powders that have a taste you can stomach, a high protein content, and minimal fat, carbs, and calories. Guides Editor, Les Shu, is a former research chief at Men’s Fitness who oversaw the fact-checking of the magazine’s nutrition and exercise articles.
Our top pick, AncestryDNA, has the largest database and gives a detailed ethnicity report for $100.
It’s quite amazing that with a simple saliva sample or cheek swab, we can learn so much about our ancestry, family connections, and inherited health markers – all thanks to our DNA. These at-home DNA test kits provide us with all kinds of information we might not be able to learn otherwise.
“A DNA test kit can tell us our medical risks, to an extent, and who we are connected to right now in our living family,” Brianne Kirkpatrick, MS, LCGC, a genetic counselor, ancestry expert for the National Society of Genetic Counselors, and founder of Watershed DNA, told Insider. “They can also tell us about the grandparents and great grandparents we’d never have a chance to learn about otherwise. And they can be the entryway into a genealogy hobby.”
Pros: Largest database, built-in DNA-matching and messaging, widely available
Cons: No health testing (which experts say isn’t necessarily a bad thing), historical records cost extra
If your goal is to build your tree and meet your cousins, you want the site that has the most people and, therefore, most matches, Mica Anders, a professional genealogist who specializes in genetic genealogy, told Insider.
AncestryDNA has the largest database with nearly 20 million purported people, which is roughly 8 million more than the next closest, 23andMe. You can opt-in to family connections and even have the ability to message potential matches. Anders did point out that people on Ancestry don’t check their messages as often as other sites geared toward more serious genealogists, like FamilyTree DNA.
The company also offers a subscription service ($25/mo and up) which grants access to a catalog of historical records like birth, death, and marriage certificates, which can be used to build your family tree.
After submitting a saliva sample to Ancestry, you’ll get a breakdown of your ethnicity estimates, ancestry matches with specific countries and regions, a map of the potential migration patterns of your ancestors, and family connections to those who match your DNA. You can even add a traits-testing service for an additional cost to find out about personal traits, such as how likely you are to have freckles or a distaste for cilantro.
Ancestry continues to update its ethnicity estimates and family connections based on new customer data, so you’ll keep getting up-to-date information as its database grows. The company also allows users to download their raw genetic data, which can be uploaded to other sites for analysis.
One of the downsides of Ancestry is that it doesn’t offer specific health information — a service it discontinued in January of 2021. But since genetic counselors recommend consulting with an expert before testing your DNA for health information, and most people use these tests for genealogical purposes, AncestryDNA still takes our top spot.
Plus, at $99 (and often less when on promotion), this test excels in its genealogical offerings while leaving room in your wallet to explore DNA health testing with a qualified expert, if that’s what you choose to do.
Pros: Second largest database, some of the health tests are FDA-approved, identifies haplogroups
Cons: Higher price due to health testing, health testing may bring up sensitive information
At $199, 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service is the priciest kit on our list but you’ll get over 40 carrier status reports (which include information about whether you carry gene mutations for various inherited diseases) as well as reports on more than 10 health dispositions. This helps provide insight into your genetic risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
While these reports can be interesting and enlightening, it’s important to remember a positive result doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get the disease, and a negative result doesn’t mean you won’t.
23andMe’s ancestry results provide information about your ethnicity estimate breakdown, an interactive map of the world showing where your ancestors came from and potential migration paths, and haplogroups, which look at the deep ancestry on your mother’s or father’s side of the family.
Female testers will only be able to see their maternal haplogroup, but male testers can get information on their paternal haplogroup because this test is done on the Y chromosome (which only genetic males have).
This test also includes trait information from your DNA, such as your chances of having a cleft chin, dimples, and dandruff. One aspect of the test that’s particularly interesting is that it also provides a report on how much DNA is inherited from our Neanderthal ancestors.
Lastly, 23andMe has a robust platform for making family connections with your DNA matches if you opt-in. You can send messages through the platform and can even see a map of where your potential family matches are located. And with more than 12 million people in their database, the chances of finding distant (or not-so-distant) relatives could be high.
The best budget DNA test kit
The MyHeritage DNA Test only costs $79 and provides most of the same information as other higher-priced ancestry tests.
Pros: Great price, cheek swab, focus on ethnicity estimates, allows you to upload external results, database of genealogical documents
Cons: Smaller DNA test database, no health information
MyHeritage’s DNA test kit was launched in 2016, so its database, at approximately 4.5 million DNA samples, isn’t as big as the older brands. However, MyHeritage allows users to upload their raw genetic data from other sites, so even though its own sample pool is smaller, its database is quite large and you’re still likely to find family matches on the site.
What’s more, if you believe you’re of European ancestry, MyHeritage DNA might be a better pick than others as it has more customers in Europe.
MyHeritage has been used as a genealogy tool long before it started offering its DNA test. Because of that, the site also has an incredible database of genealogical documents like birth, death, and marriage certificates. Access requires a subscription, but you can also integrate your DNA results with its historical database and family tree-building tool.
For $79 (and often promoted at lower prices), it has most of the same offerings as bigger names: There’s a built-in platform for connecting with new DNA family matches and a detailed ethnicity estimate breakdown. Unlike the Ancestry and 23andMe tests, MyHeritage uses a cheek swab to collect DNA, which some might find easier than having to collect their spit in a tube.
This test doesn’t provide health or trait information, so it’s a good fit especially for those who only want to focus on their ancestry.
The best DNA test kit for serious genealogists
If you’ve already taken an autosomal DNA test like the above, FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA and mtDNA tests provide deeper insight on your maternal and paternal lines, ideal for those looking to dig into their ancestry and build out family trees.
Pros: More detailed information on maternal and paternal lines, more engaged user base
Cons: Pricier than other tests, not a starting point for DNA testing
Most of the ancestry DNA test kits on the market are autosomal DNA tests, which means any sex can take it to learn both sides of their family tree, Adrienne Abiodun, a professional genealogist with LegacyTree Genealogists told Insider.
But FamilyTreeDNA offers two separate, more specific tests: Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing which focuses on your maternal line, answering the question, ‘who was my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother?; or, Y-DNA testing, which only biological men with their Y chromosome can use to find information about their direct paternal line.
These types of tests are best suited to those who have already taken autosomal DNA tests (like any of the above) and are looking for deeper information on their lineage. They’re also a good fit for someone who only wants information about their maternal or paternal line — for example, a biological male who never knew their father and wants more information about their paternal line only.
FamilyTreeDNA is a cheek swab test and allows users to upload their raw data from other test sites to get more matches — making it ideal if you’re wanting to connect with others.
“FamilyTreeDNA has a lot more serious genealogists on it, so sometimes you’ll have a better chance of getting responses from people on there,” Mica Anders said.
The paternal ancestry test starts at $119 while the maternal ancestry test is $159. For what it’s worth, FamilyTreeDNA does offer an autosomal DNA test but both Anders and Abiodun said they usually advise clients to upload their autosomal data from other testing companies, then focus on FamilyTreeDNA’s more specialized offerings as applicable.
Paternal Y-DNA Test
Paternal Y-DNA Test (button)
Maternal mtDNA Test
What else we considered
There are quite a few niche DNA test kits available, particularly for those interested in genealogy. The experts we spoke with highly recommend taking one of the larger database brands above and, once you have confirmation of where your lineage comes from, consider a more niche test.
Two tests that experts we interviewed for this article highlighted are:
African Ancestry (from $299): This test is for those who can trace their ancestry back to Africa and want more details on their maternal and paternal lines in that region. In most cases, you’ll want to do another DNA test kit first to check whether this test makes sense for you, according to Abiodun, which is why it’s not included in the main test ranking.
LivingDNA ($79): LivingDNA is a smaller testing company but includes mtDNA and Y-DNA testing in its standard offering. Primarily, experts interviewed for this article use it for people with ancestry in Great Britain, Wales, and Ireland, as they have a large representation of reference samples from this population.
How we evaluated
We evaluated each test based on the following criteria:
Reference database size: The bigger, the better.
Price: We looked at what information you get, and the quality of the information you get, relative to the price of the test.
Depth and detail of data provided: We considered how well each test covered deep ancestry information (your ancestry going back hundreds and thousands of years) as well as genetic genealogy, which covers your more recent ancestry.
Ease of family matching: We considered how easy it is to connect with any family matches you establish, and whether or not you have to pay extra to do so. “Some sites have easier communication than others,” Anders said.
Genealogist recommendations: We spoke with two professional genealogists who walked us through how they choose which tests they use for their clients.
What to look for in a DNA test kit
In addition to the criteria above (Reference database size, price, depth and detail provided, and ease of family matching), people looking to purchase a DNA test kit should consider:
Whether you want ancestry, health, and/or traits information: There are pros and cons to taking a test that includes all three types of genetic information, and some people may prefer not to know whether or not they have an increased risk of disease, for example. Others might want as much information as possible about their health, family roots, and genetic traits.
Access to raw data: If you plan to upload your genetic data to another site to maximize family matches and build your family tree, you’ll want to check whether or not you can download your raw data after getting your test results.
Subscription fees: Some DNA test kit companies require additional subscription fees to unlock certain features, particularly around health reports and historical records used for genealogy. Before you buy a test kit, check what’s included in the test price and whether or not you’ll need any additional subscriptions to use the test as planned.
Usually, the reason behind keeping your DNA sample on hand is so that your DNA can be retested if more advanced testing methods become available in the future.
A note on data privacy concerns
There’s only so much you can control when it comes to protecting your genetic data, according to Abiodun. “For people who say, ‘I don’t want my data out there’: Your data is out there.”
If anyone you share DNA with has been tested, part of your DNA is already in the database. “The floodgates are open, and millions of people have tested. I’m not saying this to be scary, but to be realistic,” Abiodun added.
It’s worth noting, though, that once you receive your results, you can delete your genetic data from a given database at any time.
As far as consenting to how your data can be shared, there’s been a lot of talk in the past several years about ensuring your genetic data is kept private after using DNA test kits. Note that some major companies do sell your genetic analysis (anonymously) to places like pharmaceutical companies.
“That policy will outline who it might share your data with, and what your rights are,” Brianne Kirkpatrick explained.
If you’re wondering why privacy is so important, here are a few of the main issues:
Profiting from health data: “For some of the big companies like 23andMe, it’s clear that providing health information to consumers was always a goal, but identifying a genetic connection with diseases often requires looking at DNA from a very large number of people,” Rick W. A. Smith, Ph.D, an assistant professor at George Mason University and biocultural anthropologist who studies how colonialism and imperialism in the Americas impact people’s DNA, told Insider.
We’re beginning to see genetic ancestry companies sign deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars with pharmaceutical companies, Smith added. “I think it is important that more people understand that when they pay for a genetic ancestry test and consent to certain types of research, their data can be used to generate massive profits for these companies.”
Some people might be totally comfortable with companies using their genetic data to develop new drugs or do other types of medical research. After all, your genetic information might contribute to the “greater good” in this way. But others may not want massive corporations to profit from their DNA, which is completely understandable.
“Once a consumer uploads their data to a third-party website like this, the expectation of privacy is basically out the window,” Lauren Jeffries, DO, a geneticist at Yale Medicine, told Insider.
Data security: Like almost any other business that stores information in a database, it’s possible that DNA testing companies could be hacked, Jeffries also pointed out. Hackers having access to your name, billing info, and genetic information is potentially a lot more worrying than having your anonymized data shared with pharmaceutical companies.
There’s no evidence that DNA testing companies are particularly vulnerable to hacking, and many mention the safeguards they have in place, but it’s a risk people should be aware of before submitting their DNA test sample. Be wary of a brand that doesn’t mention its approach to data security at all.
Who should get a DNA test?
1. People trying to build their family tree.
Whether you’re a hobby genealogist or an adoptee trying to find your birth parent, one of the biggest benefits of DNA testing is that it can reestablish lost family connections.
“These tests are invaluable if you’re of unknown parentage because they are the main tool we can use to really dig back when there are very few paper records, if any,” Mica Anders said.
Even if you don’t have family mysteries you’re trying to uncover, these tests can still be helpful, Anders said, if you want to answer questions like: Who am I? Where do I come from? Who’s my family?
2. Those who want to know more about their ethnicity makeup.
Most of the DNA test kits available on the market today provide an ethnicity estimate, which gives a breakdown of different regions of the world your ancestors likely came from. This is enough of a curiosity on its own for many people to try a test.
Anders added, “I know a lot of people give test kits as Christmas presents to each other just for the ethnicity estimate, and they never look at their results again.”
3. People who are curious about their genetic traits.
“Some of these kits uncover fun and interesting traits, such as one’s taste or distaste for cilantro,” Jeffries said. Jeffries added that she considers ancestry and non-health-related trait testing to be “curiosity genetics,” which can be entertaining.
1. Those who would be devastated by a surprise family connection (or lack thereof)
Sometimes, people uncover unexpected information about their family via a DNA test kit. Perhaps they find out their dad isn’t actually their biological parent or that they have a sibling they didn’t know about before. Most people won’t get a shocking or surprising result — but according to Brianne Kirkpatrick, many people will.
“I’ve learned that even if there’s a warning label on the box and on the website that you might get an unexpected result that you aren’t prepared for, no one really thinks it’ll happen to them. Or they think they won’t react that strongly if it does,” Kirkpatrick said.
It’s different for everyone who goes through this experience but it’s important to remember you don’t always react the way you think you will to the news. Moreover, there’s support available if this happens to you.
However, if you’re interested in taking a DNA test purely for curiosity, it’s important to think if that is worth any potential surprise revelations.
2. People looking to assess their genetic health risks.
While it’s hugely popular to use an at-home DNA test to learn your genetic risks, the tests don’t actually cover everything in your DNA. Therefore, it doesn’t give you a complete risk profile.
For example, 23andMe looks at three markers within BRCA1 and BRCA2, two genes known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Kirkpatrick pointed out that in reality, those genes are thousands of DNA letters long. This means that you could get a negative result on the 23andMe test but still have an increased genetic risk for breast cancer from non-tested genes.
Interpreting what your genetic health test results mean (and what they don’t mean) should be done with the help of a genetic counselor. At the very least, speak to your health care provider. That way, you’ll know if you need further testing, or if any of your family members need to be tested.
Can at-home DNA tests be wrong?
When it comes to health information, at-home DNA test kits aren’t as accurate as the tests a doctor or a genetic counselor would order — as explained above.
For ethnicity estimates and ancestry matching, major companies like 23andMe or Ancestry are considered accurate at the continental level, Abiodun explained. That means if you take tests from multiple companies, you’d see pretty consistently that you’re 100% European, or 65% African American and 35% European, or 25% European and 75% Asian.
However, the exact makeup of where your ancestors came from within those regions may differ between DNA testing companies.
That’s because each company has its own database of DNA to compares yours with. The ethnicity and ancestry results you get from a company are entirely dependent on who that company’s tested before. If more people of Korean descent use one brand, that brand’s database and results will be more accurate and detailed for other people of Korean descent, for example.
This is one reason that, in some cases, big-box testing brands may be less accurate for some populations.
“Historically, a lot of the genetic data gathered has been on white populations,” Kirkpatrick said. That means when non-white people submit samples to certain DNA test kit companies, there may be fewer similar samples to compare yours to. Ultimately, that may mean you get less detailed information in your results.
In these situations, region-specific tests such as African Ancestry (Africa) or 23Mofang (China) can be helpful. These companies have a more well-developed database in specific regions, which means it may provide more insight into your ancestry from that region.
If you’re looking for the most detailed and accurate ethnicity information, Kirkpatrick said your best approach is to do a broader test first and then follow up with a region-specific test once you know for sure that part of your family comes from Africa or from China, for example.
That said, databases at major DNA testing companies are continually growing and becoming more diverse. And the larger a company’s database, the more accurate the estimates are, which is why the big names you know like 23andMe really are top choices.
I’m of non-European ancestry, and I’m not sure which test is right for me.
“If you’re looking especially for ancestry information, the first place to start is the DNA test company’s website and find what’s called their white paper,” Kirkpatrick said. There might be information in that document that addresses different population groups.
Another strategy is to join genealogy groups on Facebook or other online genealogy communities.
“For example, there’s a Facebook group specifically for Korean American adoptees and they discuss which DNA tests they’ve done and which have been most helpful,” Kirkpatrick explained. “So, for some minority populations that are underrepresented in the large DNA company databases, I recommend seeking out groups specific to their background, and getting information from those who have been there before.”
What should I do if I get an unexpected ancestry result?
Sometimes, DNA test kits reveal shocking family information. “The main message I try to have everyone hear when they first make a discovery is to make sure they’re not misinterpreting the results,” Kirkpatrick said.
This means making sure you’ve ruled out other reasons for a surprise discovery before jumping to a conclusion about who a person is and how they’re related to you.
Often, DNA testing companies report more distant relationships incorrectly, according to Kirkpatrick. For example, a half-sibling and a first cousin both share about the same amount of DNA as you.
“So, if the DNA company makes assumptions about how you and a DNA match are related, it might tell you it’s the wrong relationship,” Kirkpatrick explained. The only relationships that can’t be erroneously reported like that are parent-child relationships.
My ethnicity report says some of my DNA comes from an Indigenous group. What does that mean?
“I think one of the biggest sources of confusion about these tests is that genetic ancestry results do not easily translate to group belonging,” Rick W.A. Smith said. He added that this is most often seen if people find out they have ties to Indigenous Americans.
“Pretty much everyone would understand that having Irish ancestors does not make a person an Irish citizen. But when it comes to Indigenous peoples, non-Indigenous consumers often make the mistake of thinking that sharing some DNA in common with Indigenous peoples makes them Indigenous also.”
Indigenous peoples are not distinct genetic groups, Smith added, and only Indigenous peoples can decide who their members are. Genetic ancestry tests are not enough.
I have an increased risk of a health condition. What do I do now?
Just because your genetic report shows you have an increased risk of getting a disease doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it.
“It is seldom that the markers these at-home test kits report have a 1-to-1 relationship with disease,” Lauren Jeffries explained.
For example, genetic variants indicating an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease are very common in the general population, Jeffries added, but Alzheimer’s is not a purely genetic disorder. Lifestyle factors play an important role in the development of dementia, too.
During the research process for this article, we spoke with a variety of experts in the fields of ancestry, genetic testing, and genetic genealogy, including:
Brianne Kirkpatrick, MS, is a licensed clinical genetic counselor (LCGC) and ancestry expert for the National Society of Genetic Counselors. She is also the founder of Watershed DNA, an organization that provides support for those who find out unexpected information after using a genetic ancestry test.
Sara Riordan, MS, is a licensed clinical genetic counselor (LCGC) and president of National Society of Genetic Counselors. Riordan works at OncoCyte Corporation as the Director of Medical Education.
Adrienne Abiodun is a professional genealogist who works on the DNA ancestry team at LegacyTree Genealogists. Full disclosure: 23andMe does refer people to LegacyTree for genealogical help after they’ve paid for and completed a test. But Abiodun uses a variety of different brands with her clients, not just the 23andMe test kit.
Rick W. A. Smith, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University. Smith is a biocultural anthropologist studying how colonialism and imperialism in the Americas impact people’s DNA.
Lauren Jeffries, DO, is a fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics, a pediatrician, and a medical geneticist at Yale Medicine for the Pediatric Genomics Discovery Program (PGDP), where she provides genetic counseling to patients and their families.
“There are many free and paid apps to help you learn how to eat more healthfully,” Samantha Cassetty, RD, national nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City, told Insider. “The most important thing is to find one that supports a variety of healthful foods in balanced amounts that are right for your needs.”
Noom distinguishes itself from other diet and weight loss apps by looking at your entire lifestyle rather than just food intake.
Pros: Comprehensive diet plan backed by nutrition experts, assesses a user’s entire health profile, offers a food log and calorie tracker
Noom is unique in that it not only pairs you with a health and nutrition expert to craft a plan individual to you, but it also takes into account a variety of factors like age, height, weight, activity level, target goals, medical history, and personal goals.
The program Noom creates for you suggests which foods to eat, how much physical activity to do, and other healthy habit reinforcement. The goal is to give you the tools you need to adjust your current lifestyle gradually, making small changes that can be sustained over time. This approach leads to better health and fitness all around, which makes it a more balanced option for those looking to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable fashion.
The Noom app includes features you’d expect, like a food log, calorie tracker, and an activity monitor. It also provides incentives for you to be more active but in a more mindful way, taking into account caloric intake, fitness levels, and a variety of variables.
The downside of Noom is that it’s pricey. But if you’re looking for a larger life change, it’s a great, expert-backed program.
Best on a budget
Weight Watchers has helped people lose weight for decades and does a great job of making the transition to the digital age.
Pros: Familiar diet plans, offers a barcode scanner for use at the store, has more than 8,000 recommended recipes, allows members to attend workshops and coaching sessions
Cons: App can be glitchy at times and can have trouble logging food
Weight Watchers WW app is designed to supplement its proven dietary plan by putting the resources members need right at their fingertips. That includes a massive database of rated foods using the Weight Watchers point system, putting less emphasis on calories and more on total awareness of exactly what foods you’re eating.
The app includes far more features than just a food-tracking database, too. It offers more than 9,000 healthy recipes, a barcode for scanning foods at the grocery store, and the ability to get advice from a diet coach at any time. Members can also connect with one another to offer advice and encouragement, while also earning a variety of tangible rewards — such as water bottles and wireless earbuds — just for leading a healthy lifestyle.
Weight Watchers members get access to the WW app as part of their benefits, or you can purchase a digital-only membership. This provides access to all of the app’s features but doesn’t allow digital-only users to attend workshops and coaching sessions.
Best free app
If you’re comfortable managing your own food choices, MyNetDiary is an excellent option for free.
Pros: An excellent app for anyone on a budget, offers food and exercise tracking and a variety of meal planning options
Cons: The advanced tracking options are behind a paywall
While the app does have some premium features, MyNetDiary‘s free services are very good, too, and great for anyone on a budget.
Those features include food and exercise tracking, meal planning options, graphical charts to map your progress, daily analysis of eating habits, and even access to a large and active online community. And not only are these services free but they don’t require the user to create an account. That means your data stays completely anonymous.
Paying for the premium version of MyNetDiary unlocks a number of other useful upgrades, as well. They include compatibility with Fitbit devices, health tracking for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic, and personalized diet advice from a nutritionist. Those are handy to have if you need them but aren’t necessary to see beneficial functionality from this app.
Best for fitness
MyFitnessPal encourages users to think about the things they eat, while also helping them become more active at the same time.
Pros: Offers a wide variety of cardio and strength workouts, has a database of over 11 million different foods, features a barcode scanner for use at the store, its recipe importer gives you info on custom at-home meals, free features
Cons: $50 annual membership required for the full suite of features
While many diet and weight loss apps focus on just eating healthy, you should also ramp up your exercise routine for the best results. That’s where MyFitnessPal comes in, acting as both a diet and an exercise coach.
MyFitnessPal comes with a database of more than 11 million foods, as well as a barcode scanner for adding entries to your food log. It includes a recipe importer for evaluating home-cooked meals, which is especially helpful when trying to get an accurate picture of your current eating habits.
Beyond those features, the app includes more than 300 cardio and strength workouts for a more well-rounded approach to your health and fitness. It even integrates with Apple’s HealthKit, as well as the MapMyRun, Garmin, and Fitbit apps to more accurately track steps and workout routines.
MyFitnessPal has a great online community to provide support, advice, and encouragement. While the premium membership is $10 a month or $50 a year, MyFitnessPal does have plenty of features for free.
Best for tracking food
Lose It! lets you quickly and easily input the foods you’ve eaten to calculate your caloric intake for the day — and the app is intuitive enough for anyone to use.
Pros: Easy to use food tracking, intuitive app, can take photos of your food to estimate calories, offers a social aspect to connect with other users, plenty of free features
Cons: App can be buggy, requires you to be highly specific about some foods
There are literally dozens of food tracking apps available for your smartphone but thanks to its versatility and smarts, Lose It! is our top pick. You’re able to easily add what food you ate today by selecting it from the app’s extensive database or by scanning the barcode on a product purchased at the store.
You can even take a photo of your meals in order to get an estimate of how many calories it contains. The app includes a helpful water tracking feature that reminds you to stay hydrated throughout the day, too.
All of this functionality is included in the app for free but a $40 annual membership unlocks additional features like a Fitbit-compatible activity tracker, macronutrient goal setting, and access to a detailed and powerful meal planner.
An active community of users also provides a social aspect to using the app, which can be helpful when it comes to looking for support and feedback. The app even has weight loss games and challenges to take part in as well, which does a nice job of providing extra motivation.
Best for busy lifestyles
Rise is the food tracker that doesn’t require an extensive amount of time to use — even minimal input can provide users with immense benefit.
Pros: Doesn’t require a lot of effort to make use of its benefits, simplifies the diet process, makes use of an easy-to-use food photo system that tracks what you eat
Cons: Expensive at roughly $48 per month
Food tracking and weight loss apps can be a lot of work. But the Rise app requires minimal work from users while still providing plenty of helpful advice to assist in achieving their fitness goals.
With Rise, you won’t be scanning bar codes, searching through food databases, or entering individual ingredients into the app. Instead, you just snap a photo of your meal or snack and upload it to your account. Then, a personal nutritionist reviews the photo and offers an analysis based on the goals you’ve set. This not only provides helpful feedback but adds a measure of accountability that goes a long way towards keeping users on track.
While Rise takes the drudgery out of the process, the simplicity that it provides comes at a price with monthly fees start at around $48 per month. This does make it pricey for a dietary service accessed through an app, though it’s still much cheaper than paying for an on-call personal nutritionist — which is essentially what you get here.
Best for at-home cooks
Fooducate is the informational tool you need if you’re looking to improve your nutrition yet don’t know where to start.
Pros: An excellent informative tool to help people become more aware of their nutrition, uses an easy to understand grading system for a variety of foods, offers insightful tips on what to look out for when shopping
Fooducate is an app designed to help you make smarter decisions about your food as it suggests healthier alternatives to your favorite grub.
Using Fooducate is extremely easy, too. Simply scan the barcode on any product at the grocery store and it provides a letter grade for the nutritional value of that item ranging from A+ to D-. Accompanying that letter grade is an explanation of why the product received the grade it did, including valuable information about the nutritional content it offers.
The app also points out important things to be aware of, including whether or not a product contains added sugars, artificial coloring or sweeteners, or other unhealthy additives. This allows consumers to make more informed decisions at the grocery store, while also assisting with finding healthier alternatives.
Fooducate has other features beyond just scanning products at the grocery store. It also serves as a health tracker, offers insightful diet tips, and provides delicious and healthy recipes. But its engaged and active community is one of its best assets, with users sharing tips and suggestions with one another on a constant basis. That kind of support is an incredibly helpful feature for anyone struggling to eat healthier and lead a better all-around lifestyle.
How a weight-loss app can help
Considering you always have your phone with you, using an app to track your food and screen your grocery store purchases is ideal. Some of the apps that are available even create extensive meal plans, provide diet and exercise routines, or offer consultations from dietitians and nutritionists. Others simply track what you eat in order to raise awareness of the calories you’re taking in. Cassetty said there are benefits to both and that even basic food trackers are valuable.
“Free tools allow you to track your food intake, which is a form of self-monitoring that’s been found helpful for reaching or maintaining a comfortable weight,” she said. “They can also expose when you might be grazing or over-snacking, which happens when you’re spending more time working at home with a stocked kitchen.”
Why making healthy changes takes more than an app
While Cassetty said she finds plenty of value in the use of smartphone apps to track dietary intake, she also urges caution, saying that “unless you’re getting the tools and information you need to make lasting changes, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to maintain any weight you’ve lost.”
She recommended working on understanding how to balance meals so they fill you up while tasting great at the same time. She also stresses the importance of developing healthier coping strategies rather than turning to food when we’re bored, stressed, anxious, depressed, or even happy.
“Rather than focus on a goal weight, I think a better way to go is to focus on small steps you can take to create healthier habits,” Cassetty said. “Examples include, limiting soda, upping your veggie intake at lunch and dinner, cooking an extra meal or two, drinking more water, and aiming for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.”
Those are words of wisdom, no doubt, but Cassetty also expressed the importance of cutting ourselves some slack when things get especially stressful and difficult.
“I think it’s important to be flexible and compassionate with yourself during these challenging times,” she added. “You may not be able to eat as well as you’d like or maintain your healthy routines, and that’s alright. As long as you’re putting in some effort — versus none at all — it’s a step in the right direction.”